We don't get a lot of opportunity to hear from the chief executive officer of a company. These guys are busy building the strategy for companies to succeed in the future, but when we do get a chance to connect it's always rather refreshing.
Tim Hassinger, CEO, Dow AgroSciences, talked with media recently about the company, its portfolio and how it views the future. He explains that agriculture is a fast-moving industry and Dow AgroSciences will have a part in it. "We have to double food production in the next 50 years and that increase will come to the middle class as they add more protein to their diets," Hassinger says.
You've heard that before. Feeding the 9 billion by 2050 isn't just about growing more vegetables, as incomes rise a new global middle class has a growing appetite for protein. And those pigs, chickens and steers need to be fed.
"The part of that challenge we're not often told," Hassinger says, "is where that increase in production is going to come from. Seventy percent of the gain will come from new technology." After a morning in the field looking at Dow AgroSciences' new Enlist technologies and other tools the company is bringing to bear it's clear the company will be a player in this expanding ag market.
"Our purpose statement is Science Serving the Needs of a Growing World and we take that seriously," he says. He notes that Dow is one of just four companies that are basic in molecule discovery for the new tools you'll use in the future. They're playing both in the crop protection arena and in the biotech area as well - remember they worked with Monsanto to create Smart Stax.
And the company is investing. Hassinger notes that the Indianapolis home campus has seen a $300 million investment in the last few years as the company expands its research and development capacity. The company has seen faster growth than many of its competitors and much of that comes from new technologies coming to market.
But looking ahead there are some speed bumps. Dow AgroSciences saw the regulatory process become more politicized for Enlist and Enlist Duo as group protests arose over bringing the 2,4-D mode of action to broader use. "I think that any biotech trait that is going through the process now is getting a fair amount of public acknowledgement and push back…we want to make sure emotion doesn't ultimately drive important decisions."
The Enlist system launch to the market was delayed by a year due to an Environmental Impact Statement that USDA conducted. That process has ended and USDA has recommended approval of the technology. The company now awaits EPA's decision, which the company believes will come by year end.
There is another hurdle to clear - at least for Enlist soybeans - and that's China. The company won't market the technology before Chinese regulators approve the trait for import. China is a major soybean trading partner and this could be a challenge. "We continue to work with China and answer the questions they have about the technology," Hassinger says. "It's a continuous process not unlike the U.S. regulatory process."
And in the face of a softening market with corn prices well off of last year's highs, Hassinger is projecting growth for Dow AgroSciences. "The measure is to grow faster than the market and that will be a challenge. [We're still] optimistic about the long-term trend and have seen good results in the Americas, Europe and Asia. That's the benefit of being a global company."
Looking ahead Hassinger says he and his leadership team are working to prioritize the potential technologies the company is working on. "We have a wonderful challenge in bringing technology forward as fast as possible to the market. Our leadership team is working to prioritize [technology developments] so we can bring as much to market as possible."